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Effortless Healing by Dr. Joseph Mercola (2015): Food list

Effortless Healing by Dr. Joseph MercolaEffortless Healing (2015) is a low-starch, unprocessed diet.

  • Minimal to no consumption of grains and sugars, including complex carbs.
  • Consume fruit in moderation – limit fructose.
  • Eat raw organic vegetables, healthful fats, and grass-fed/pastured organic proteins; drink plenty of water.
  • Intermittent fasting – eat in an 8-10 hour period each day

Below on this page is a description of the food recommendations in the diet. General guidelines,  what to eatfoods to limit, and foods to avoid. There’s a lot more in the book – food guidelines are only part of the total guidelines, related to five of the 9 Healing Principles.

Use this page as a cheat sheet alongside the book. Send this page to friends, family, and anyone else who you want to understand what you’re eating on this diet.

Get a copy of Effortless Healing for exercise/movement/posture guidelines (Healing Principle 4), sun exposure guidelines (Healing Principle 5), sleep guidelines (Healing Principle 7), going barefoot/touch/laughter/breathing correctly/staying grounded (Healing Principle 8), how to set and meet goals and address emotional roadblocks, daily meal and activity suggestions, and more.

The reasoning behind Effortless Healing

The book says that your body was designed to be healthy without requiring a drug. Give it what it needs to thrive, and it will typically regenerate itself without any outside interventions. This innate restorative tendency is what the author calls “Effortless Healing.”

Effortless Healing diet plan – what to eat and foods to avoid

General guidelines  |  What to eat  |  Foods to limit  |  Foods to avoid

General guidelines

  • Drink a glass of water when you notice yourself feeling thirsty or hungry. If you’re still hungry after 10 minutes or so, you’ll know that cue is truly for food
  • Practice intermittent fasting (Healing Principle 4)
    • Don’t do this if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or have chronic excessive stress that results in severe adrenal exhaustion
    • Eat only during an 8-10 hour window each day to help you burn fat and improve health in many ways
    • Break into this slowly – start by not eating anything for 3 hours before you go to bed, then go as long as you comfortably can without eating breakfast, gradually extending that time later each day until you can completely skip breakfast. When you do eat, minimize carbs and exchange them for green leafy vegetables and high-quality fats as listed below
    • Some people find that skipping dinner works for them than skipping breakfast
    • For Advanced Effortless Healing, work out while in a fasted state. On the days that you work out while fasting, eat a recovery meal 30 minutes after your workout – high quality whey protein is ideal. Once you are fat-adapted, you can cycle between feast and famine modes. Then you can try eating healthy fresh fruits (not juices) before you exercise, and your body will use the sugar as fuel instead of storing it as fat
    • Once you are no longer overweight and have normal blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, you can start “feasting” (eating all day) again – listen to your body and adjust your food pattern if you start having health issues again
  • Transition from burning carbs to burning fats (Healing Principle 4)
    • Transition gradually at a pace that works for you – eat less carbs and more fats
    • Shifting to fat-burning mode typically takes several weeks, though it can take longer. Once you have made the shift, your appetite will normalize and your desire for sweets and junk food will radically decrease
    • If you have sugar cravings or a lack of energy or hypoglycemic tendencies (headaches, weakness, tremors, or irritability), use some coconut oil as a source of energy – options include: mix 1 tbsp of coconut oil with one tablespoon of raw almond butter and spread the mixture on celery sticks for a snack; blend coconut oil into a glass of kefir or fresh green vegetable juice; stir a tablespoon of coconut into the soup you have for lunch; you can eat coconut oil on its own during the time you’re fasting
  • Incorporate fermented foods into your daily diet, such as yogurt or kefir made with raw milk, natto, and fermented vegetables – if you choose not to, you can take a high-quality probiotic (Healing Principle 6)
  • Chew your food to make it easier to digest (Healing Principle 6)
    • Eat in a relaxed, nondistracted environment (not on the run or while working or watching TV)
    • Take smaller bites of food (they’re easier to chew)
    • Chew slowly and steadily
    • Chew until your mouthful of food is liquefied or has lost all its texture
    • Finish chewing and swallow completely before you take another bite of food
    • Wait to drink fluids until you’ve swallowed
  • Mercola’s version of the food pyramid
    • Eat plentiful: Healthful fats and Veggies – raw organic vegetables; healthy fats including coconuts, avocados, olive oil, butter, and raw nuts
    • Eat: Protein – raw organic dairy; safe fish such as wild Alaskan salmon; grass-fed organic meat and poultry
    • Minimize: Fruits – consume fruits in moderation; limit fructose to below 25 grams a day including 15 grams from whole fruit
    • Minimal to no consumption: Grains and Sugars – includes complex carbs such as bread, ceral, pasta, potatoes, corn, rice, and grain products

Foods to eat in Effortless Healing

  • Beverages
    • Pure water (Healing Principle 1) – e.g. filtered tap water (not bottled water)
      • Invest in a water filtration system – e.g. a reverse osmosis filter, water distiller, or carbon filter (see the book for the pros and cons of each and what to keep in mind)
      • To make your water more interesting, fizz it up using a SodaStream or similar machine to carbonate beverages at home
      • You can also add fresh lime or lemon wedges, slices of cucumber, peeled ginger root, natural peppermint extract or crushed mint leaves, whole herbal tea extracts, safe natural sweeteners like stevia or lo han (monk fruit)
      • If you’re over 65 (when your thirst mechanism doesn’t work as well) or if you don’t recognize thirst, you should drink several glasses of water daily, whether or not you feel thirsty
    • Home-made vegetable juice / green juice (don’t add any fruits, except lemon or lime, due to their sugar content)
    • Tea and coffee
      • Choose organic
      • Tea is the better choice for many, but coffee can also be a healthy option
      • Herbal teas e.g. hibiscus, tulsi / holy basil
      • Chamomile tea to help you sleep
    • Structured water
      • H3O2 instead of H2O
      • Found in raw or juiced fresh vegetables, spring water, chilled water, vortexed water
    • Vegetables – nonstarchy (Healing Principle 2)
      • This is the food group that should take up most of your plate – primarily nonstarchy vegetables
      • Fresh, minimally processed, high-quality vegetables, ideally locally grown and organic. If you can’t get organic, any vegetable is better than no vegetable – wash them thoroughly (preferably soak in water and vinegar for 30 minutes) and remove peels and cores where possible to minimize your exposure to pesticides
      • Consume a majority of them raw. Aim for at least 30% (and up to 50% or more) of your vegetables raw
        • Salads
        • Juicing – Dr. Mercola typically consumes from a pint to a quart of green juice most days. Avoid using juice as a complete meal unless you’re undergoing a special fasting or detoxification program. Limit fruits, preferably to lemons or limes. Guidelines to juicing are in the book and at http://juicing.mercola.com/.
        • Fermenting (Healing Principle 6) (fermented sauerkraut, kimchee, etc. – sample recipe in the book) for natural probiotics – if you’re not used to eating fermented vegetables, start slowly, and try using them in salads instead of vinegar. Make sure the fermented food is unpasteurized – preferably make it yourself
        • Sprouting – grow your own sprouts
      • The greener or darker the vegetable, the more nutritious it will typically be
      • Highly recommended vegetables and herbs – asparagus, avocado, beet greens, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, chicory, Chinese cabbage/napa cabbage, chives, collard greens, cucumbers, dandelion greens, endive, escarole, fennel, green cabbage, red cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce (romaine, red leaf, green leaf), mustard greens, onions, parsley, peppers (red, green, yellow, and hot), Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips, spinach, sprouts, zucchini
    • High-quality fats (Healing Principle 4)
      • Olives and olive oil (unheated)
      • Coconuts and coconut oil (best oil for cooking)
      • Butter – definitely organic, and pastured and raw if possible
      • Raw nuts, especially those low in protein, such as macadamias and pecans; also almonds, walnuts, and other nuts
      • Nut and seed flour/meal – e.g. almond meal
      • Nut and seed butter/paste – e.g. tahini
      • Organic pastured egg – the less you cook them, the better, as many nutrients in yolks are susceptible to heat damage – soft-boiled and poached are your best options
      • Avocados, avocado oil (unheated)
      • Walnut oil (unheated)
    • Dairy foods
      • Raw pastured full fat organic dairy is best – if you can’t get pastured, get organic plain whole milk
      • Fermented dairy foods (Healing Principle 6) – live, unpasteurized, unsweetened, nothing-added yogurt, kefir
      • Cheese e.g. feta (no other examples in the book)
      • Pastured cream
    • Fish (smaller, unfarmed – less contaminated)
      • Anchovies, croaker, haddock, herring, Alaskan salmon, wild Pacific salmon, sardines, summer flounder
      • Krill oil
    • Meat and protein
      • Grass-fed, organic meat and poultry
      • Poultry – e.g. pastured chicken
      • Meat – e.g. grass-fed beef, buffalo
    • Legumes
      • Fermented soy (Healing Principle 6) – miso, natto, soy sauce (traditionally made, organic, gluten-free – preferably tamari), tempeh
    • Non-grain carbohydrate seeds
      • Buckwheat
    • Other ingredients
      • Vinegar (e.g. balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar)

Foods to limit with Effortless Healing

  • Beverages
    • Tap water / chlorinated water – the book explains what can be found in tap water and why filtering it is best
    • Bottled water from plastic bottles
    • Coconut water – best used when you’re doing endurance exercises or in environments where you are sweating more than a quart of water per day
  • Vegetables to eat sparingly due to high carbohydrate levels
    • Beets, carrots, eggplant, jicama, winter squashes (e.g. acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, spaghetti squash)
  • Fresh fruit
    • Keep your total fructose consumption to below 25 grams per day, primiarily from fruit. If you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food, it would be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as you’re virtually guaranteed to consume “hidden” fructose in these types of products.
  • Sweeteners
    • Sugar alcohols – e.g. xylitol, glucitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, glycerol, lactitol
    • Dextrose/glucose
    • Lo han kuo (aks lo han guo, lo han, monk fruit)
    • Stevia – whole leaf extract in liquid or powdered form

Foods to avoid with Effortless Healing

  • Processed foods, fast food
  •  Beverages
    • Sweet and artificial beverages (Healing Principle 1)
    • Soda – reduce your intake to zero gradually, over a few weeks, lowering the amount you drink by a small amount every day until you stop – aim for a 5-10% reduction every day.
    • Sports drinks
    • Artificially flavored / sweetened waters; “functional waters”
    • Diet soda
    • Fruit juices, especially commercial
    • Sweetened beverages – e.g. iced tea, lemonade, etc.
  • Sugars and artificial sweeteners (Healing Principle 9)
    • Processed sugars including sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup HFCS, turbinado sugar, etc.
    • Natural sugars including agave, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, fruit juice, honey (you can have raw local honey, but no more than a teaspoon or two a day), maple syrup, molasses, sorghum, sucanat
    • Artificial sweeteners, including acesulfame K / acesulfame potassium, aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), Truvia (which contains other ingredients in addition to just stevia, principally erythritol)
  • Vegetables to avoid
    • Corn
    • Potatoes
  • Oils
    • Vegetable oils (Healing Principle 9)
    • Corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil
    • Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats; margarine; shortening
    • Processed foods, most of which contain these oils
  • Dairy
    • Conventional yogurt (Healing Principle 9) – made from cows raised on confined animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) who don’t have access to grass, their natural diet, and are given a lot of antibiotics and other substances
    • Low-fat and nonfat dairy
  • Fish
    • Large and farmed fish (Healing Principle 9)
    • Halibut, largemouth bass, marlin, pike, Atlantic salmon (which is typically farmed), farmed salmon, sea bass, swordfish, tuna, white croaker
  • Legumes
    • Unfermented soy (Healing Principle 9)
    • Edamame, soy burgers, soy milk, textured soy protein, tofu
    • It’s unclear whether other legumes (dried beans, chickpeas, lentils etc.) should be eaten – but they’re not shown on the food pyramid on page 64 so it’s assumed they should be avoided
  • Grains
    • Grains and foods made from grains, especially those containing gluten (Healing Principle 9)
    • Grains – including barley, millet, oats, rice (brown and white), rye, spelt, sprouted grains, wheat
    • Foods made from grains – e.g. bread, cereals, pasta, baked goods
  • Other ingredients
    • Carrageenan

Caffeine and alcohol are not mentioned in the book; it’s not clear whether they can be part of the healing plan but assumed not

Health benefits claimed in Effortless Healing

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: acid reflux / heartburn / GERD, acne, allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, anemia, angina, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, autism (ASD), autoimmune diseases, bloating, cancer, chronic health conditions, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), colds, congestive heart failure, constipation, coughs, Crohn’s disease, dementia, depression, diabetes, prediabetes, diarrhea, digestive issues, eczema, fatigue, fibromyalgia, flu/influenza, food allergies, food cravings, gas, hay fever, headaches, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hot flashes, hypertension, inflammation, insomnia, insulin resistance, kidney disease, leptin resistance, Lou Gehrig’s disease/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), lupus, migraines, multiple sclerosis, nausea, night sweats, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, overweight/obesity, pain, painful periods, post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, premature aging, psoriasis, rashes, rheumatoid arthritis, seizures, skin conditions, sleep apnea, sugar cravings, tooth cavities, urinary tract infections (UTIs)

As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, not endorsing it.

Get a copy of Effortless Healing for exercise/movement/posture guidelines (Healing Principle 4), sun exposure guidelines (Healing Principle 5), sleep guidelines (Healing Principle 7), going barefoot/touch/laughter/breathing correctly/staying grounded (Healing Principle 8), how to set and meet goals and address emotional roadblocks, daily meal and activity suggestions, and more.

Buy now from Amazon

The Effortless Healing website is http://www.effortlesshealing.com; Dr. Mercola’s website is http://www.mercola.com/. He’s on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/doctor.health, and Twitter at https://twitter.com/mercola.

How has this diet helped you? Please add a comment or question below.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Maria Perez-Garcia June 1, 2015, 11:36 pm

    is there a newsletter that you offer free on the Internet?

    • Penny Hammond June 2, 2015, 5:14 pm

      There isn’t a newsletter for this particular diet, but you can subscribe to Dr. Mercola’s emails by going to http://www.mercola.com/ and subscribing near the top of the page. Hope that helps.

  • rayhaana September 5, 2016, 12:10 pm

    I feel absolutely hopeless. …I don’t know what to do…no kidney Beans and other types no brown rice??? ..how long does Dr mercola recommend we stick to this diet. …?

    • Penny Hammond September 29, 2016, 7:36 pm

      I can’t see anything in the book saying “follow this diet for x days / weeks / months” – it appears that Dr. Mercola is suggesting that you aim at having a diet similar to this for life to improve your health.
      This type of diet makes some people feel great, but others can’t stop feeling deprived – it might not work for everybody.

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